Best Sources of Fat:
Up until the mid 1900’s, fat was the measure of good eating. It was prized and seen for the health-giving substance that it is. These fats were found naturally in foods and animals. Absolutely no one was looking for lean cuts of meat and they weren’t throwing away chicken skin or grease in the pan. It was all saved and eaten and considered one of THE most important aspects of the diet.
Of course, this was before diabetes and heart disease became epidemics and no, it wasn’t because they exercised more.
Not all fat is created equal. In the past, we consumed fat from animals raised outside on pasture – not corn fed or confined. A lot of it was wild meat. Grass-fed and wild meat are MUCH healthier than conventionally raised meat. Grass-fed meat contains lots more omega-3 fats, antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds. (1, 2, 3)
There is a lot of confusion about where most of the fat comes from in the current American diet. It’s not even largely from animals or nuts and other natural sources, it’s processed seed oils like soybean, canola, vegetable oil and trans fats. Those fats make up the yellow circle in this chart:
Note that these are “added fats”, fats added typically to processed foods, cooking and frying oils used in restaurants and fast food chains. They comprise much more than the fats that come from natural sources (red circle).
So, when people are blaming fat for all the world’s ills, they’re not even making it clear that most fat in the American diet comes from unnatural sources, fats that are highly processed and damaged, which we know greatly affects our internal health.
Not to mention the fact that the majority of our calories come from grains, processed fats, sugars and unhealthy forms of dairy – a recipe for diabetes.
Science has shown time and time again that fat is not the villain. The industrial food complex has worked hard to convince us to use their manufactured oils instead of more natural options. So, instead of lard (natural), they sold us on Crisco (not natural). And instead of coconut and palm oils (natural), they sold us on vegetable oil, canola, soybean, etc (not natural). They may appear to come from a natural place, but they are all made in industrial facilities using processes and chemicals that render the oil harmful to our health. They don’t reduce our risk of disease nor do they help us stay lean. These fats actually promote disease.
So, in this post, “fat” means fats found naturally in animal meat, nuts and other sources that are not heavily processed and damaged.
Here’s a great chart to help you keep this all straight and buy the healthiest oils for you and your family:
Saturated Fat Gives you An Advantage
The 3 types of fats are saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. They are named this way based on how many double bonds or bends in the chain they contain. Saturated fat has no bends, monounsaturated has 1 and polyunsaturated has 2 or more. These areas where the molecule bends are weak points that can be more easily damaged by heat, light and oxygen.
Below, the molecule on the left is saturated (coconut oil), the one in the middle is monounsaturated (olive oil) and the one on the right is polyunsaturated (fish oil).
Saturated fats are king. Without double bonds, there are no bends within the fat molecule. So, it’s more stable, less easily damaged and has amazing effects within the body. They help us build healthy cell walls, better use omega-3 fats, aid digestion and actually help us fight infection. (4)
Unsaturated fats must be handled with care. Olive oil should be bought cold-pressed and reserved for cold salads or pouring on things after they’ve cooked. If you’re cooking with it, keep it on medium heat or less. And buy it in dark glass bottles that are not exposed to light. Fish oil is also unsaturated, so when buying fish oil, I recommend shying away from store brands that usually contain rancid, damaged oils in the capsule. Again, these fats are super fragile and must be processed properly. Go to a health food store where staff can best educate you on the different brands and their processing and testing methods so that you can make a safe choice that fits into your budget.
I’m not here to give unsaturated fats a bad rap, our bodies have different uses for all 3 types of fats. In fact, saturated and unsaturated fats usually come together in nature.
For example, we’re told that lard is saturated fat. In fact, lard is 50% monounsaturated, 40% saturated and 10% polyunsaturated. People usually think beef fat is saturated, but it’s 50-55% saturated and 40% monounsaturated. Nature always gives us a mix. Unfortunately, foods get labeled as “saturated” when they’re not just saturated fat.
So, we don’t actually need plant oils to get the proper mix of all 3 fats needed for the body because they’re all found in animal sources. It’s not that you can’t use plant oils, just know how best to buy and use them.
Why Fat is So Important for Blood Sugar
Now that we’ve established that fats are critical and healthy, let’s look at how fats affect your blood sugar compared to proteins or carbohydrates.
Fat is the one macronutrient that doesn’t spike insulin or contribute to insulin resistance. If you ate something that was mostly fat like avocado or cheese, your blood sugar wouldn’t rise very much. You may even notice it drop to lower than it was BEFORE you ate. The good news is that you can reduce the blood sugar spikes caused by carbs when you include (lots of) fat at a meal. Fat slows down how quickly your food is digested, keeping your blood sugar more stable.
NOTE: Protein may look like a significant contributor to blood sugar, but it’s not. First, we don’t know what kind of protein was used when they measured this. When testing pure protein, it is unlikely that they used a whole food since proteins almost always come with fat. Also, say they used some kind of processed egg white protein, a super common allergen. The person consuming this would have an immune response, experience an increase in stress hormones and a rise in blood sugar as a result. Just food for thought. In the real world, protein is nothing to be concerned about for blood sugar and is a key stabilizer of blood sugar along with fat.
What about fat and weight? Fat doesn’t make us fat. Fat is highly satisfying, it keeps us fuller longer and turns off the body’s starvation signals. This allows you to burn more of your stored fat and encourages a healthy metabolism. (5)
Many metabolism experts recommend that as much as 40%-60% of calories in your diet come from fat. So, the next time you sit down for a meal, I encourage you to actively seek out the healthy fats. Add avocado, nuts AND olive oil to your salad. Sautee vegetables in either butter, coconut oil, palm oil or lard, enjoy dark meat chicken and buy your grass fed ground beef 80/20. Make sure that whatever starches you have in your meal also contain some fat. Eat chicken skin!
You can even read stories of real-life diabetics who used fat as their primary weapon against the disease – and won.
Natural fats contain lots of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), which are arguably THE most important nutrients for optimal health, cancer prevention, weight loss, immune system function, etc. When these vitamins come from plant foods, we must pair them with fat to absorb them, so cook your carrots or other veggies in butter or lard and dress your salad with cold-pressed olive oil.
Fat is so misunderstood and maligned. It was a critical part of my own recovery from erratic blood sugars, anxiety, an unhealthy emphasis on body weight and digestive problems. Fat phobia is almost entirely the result of decades of bad research and industry trying to convince us that their fake fats were better. Kids are especially vulnerable to processed fats as they are developing and have smaller bodies.
Start today and replace your processed fats with the ones listed in the top half of the chart. It is one of the biggest and most important changes you can make in your health today.
I hope this was helpful to you and helps you look a little differently at how important fat is in your diet and your quest to lower your blood sugars and keep them stable.
Please leave your questions and comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!